2022 US Open Cup: Format, schedule finalized for 107th edition of tournament

Posted by | December 27, 2021
The Houston Dynamo lift the trophy after winning the 2018 US Open Cup title. Photo: Houston Dynamo

The Houston Dynamo lift the trophy after winning the 2018 US Open Cup title. Photo: Houston Dynamo

This March, the 107th edition Lamar Hunt US Open Cup will finally kick off after a two year wait. This all comes with a revised format and the earliest tournament start in the Modern Era (1995-present).

Today, the US Soccer Federation (USSF) has announced the 2022 US Open Cup schedule and format of the competition. As was originally organized for the canceled 2020 tournament, Major League Soccer (MLS) teams will not all enter in the same round of the competition for the first time since 2006. This will result in more matches between MLS and lower division competition over the course of the early rounds of the tournament.

Unlike that nearly 50-50 split however, the 2022 competition will see a majority of MLS teams (17) enter in the Third Round. These teams are:

  • Atlanta United FC
  • Austin FC
  • Charlotte FC (New team)
  • Chicago Fire FC
  • Columbus Crew
  • D.C. United
  • FC Cincinnati
  • FC Dallas
  • Houston Dynamo
  • Inter Miami CF
  • Los Angeles FC
  • LA Galaxy
  • Minnesota United FC
  • New York Red Bulls
  • Orlando City SC
  • Real Salt Lake
  • San Jose Earthquakes

The remaining eight, which will include the four USA-based entrants to the 2022 CONCACAF Champions League and the next two best American regular-season finishers in each of the league’s Eastern and Western Conferences, will enter in the Round of 32. These teams are:

  • Colorado Rapids
  • Nashville SC
  • New England Revolution (Supporter’s Shield Winner)
  • New York City FC (MLS Cup Champions)
  • Philadelphia Union
  • Portland Timbers
  • Seattle Sounders FC
  • Sporting Kansas City

The remaining professional teams from both Division II (USL Championship) and Division III (USL League One, National Independent Soccer Association, and the newly-formed MLS NEXT Pro) will all enter the Second Round of the competition. This comes after a statement in July from US Open Cup commissioner Paul Marstaller that suggested Division III teams would enter in the First Round.

“The 2022 tournament will be the first in memory when all the top players will be available for selection for every round as none of the games involving Division I Major League Soccer or Division II USL Championship clubs will be played during an international call-up period, a necessary feature for building a credible national championship,” said commissioner Marstaller in a July 20 press release.

The only round that falls on an international call up period is the First Round on March 22-23.

This all excludes teams majority-owned or otherwise controlled by a higher division professional club, meaning a majority of MLSNP teams. However, two teams from that league are already known and will compete in 2022.

Rochester NY FC, the former Rochester Rhinos, are returning to professional play and the competition for the first time since 2017. The 1999 US Open Cup champions are the last non-MLS (Division 1) team to win the competition and were recently purchased by Leicester City FC star Jamie Vardy. 

The second team is a fun loophole. With St. Louis City SC is set to join MLS in 2023, however it’s reserve side is one of the 21 teams taking part in NEXT Pro’s inaugural 2022 season. Tournament rules state that a team cannot participate if it is owned by a high division club already in the competition. This means the yet-to-be-named St. Louis City SC reserve team will be able to take part this year only (barring the first team’s MLS debut being pushed back).

The rest of the teams from USL Championship (USL-C) and NISA will be announced after the professional team deadline of Dec. 31, 2021.

Again keeping with major changes originally scheduled for 2020, the First Round will be played on March 22-23, 2022 with all Open Division teams participating. This is the earliest any USOC has ever begun in the Modern Era (1995-present) and would have even broken 2020’s record had that been played (March 24-25).

This includes the Open Division Local teams, and most notably, all of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) and USL League Two (USL-2) teams. This will create a problem because NPSL and USL-2 teams overwhelmingly rely on college players. According to NCAA rules, current college players (excluding seniors who will graduate in the spring) are not allowed to play for an outside team before May 1, unless the game falls during Spring Break or some other school-sanctioned vacation period.

Teams that rely on college players on their roster will need to come up with different or additional players to participate in the tournament. It’s even possible for NPSL and USL-2 teams to play three Open Cup matches before their regular season kicks off in May.

The remaining Open Division teams are the local qualifiers that have already been determined for the First Round next March. The NPSL and USL-2 allocations and qualified teams will be announced on Jan. 6, 2022.

(Note: You can read our projections on which teams will get into USOC 2022 from both the NPSL and USL2)

The 12 Local Qualifiers (including the 2021 USASA Amateur Cup champion Lansdowne Yonkers FC) are:

  • Azteca FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./Colorado Super League, Colorado)
  • Brockton FC United (US Adult Soccer Assn./Bay State Soccer League, Massachusetts)
  • City Soccer FC (US Specialty Sports Assn./National Soccer League, Florida)
  • Contra Costa FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./National Premier Soccer League, California)
  • D’Feeters Kicks Soccer Club (US Club Soccer/The Roja League, Texas)
  • Escondido FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./United Premier Soccer League, California)
  • Lansdowne Yonkers FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./Eastern Premier Soccer League, New York)
  • Lynchburg FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./United Premier Soccer League, Virginia)
  • Northern Virginia FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./Eastern Premier Soccer League, Virginia)
  • Orlando FC Wolves (US Specialty Sports Assn./National Soccer League, Florida)
  • Oyster Bay United FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./United Premier Soccer League, New York)
  • San Fernando Valley FC (US Adult Soccer Assn./United Premier Soccer League, California)

None of 13 local qualifiers from the canceled 2020 tournament were able to re-qualify for 2022. All but two of the Open Division Local Qualifiers (Lansdowne Bhoys FC, Northern Virginia FC) will be making their tournament debuts in 2022. Of note, NPSL side Contra Costa FC was allowed to participate in local qualifying. This is because the Golden Gate Conference it competes in had no pathway to the competition via the National League route since it did not participate in the traditional league season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

2022 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Competition Schedule

Jan. 6                               Open Division berth allocation announced

Jan. 19                             First Round pairings announced

Jan. 26                             Second Round pairings and possible pairings announced

March 22-23                    First Round (Open Division teams enter)

April 5-7                          Second Round (Division II and III teams enter)

April 8                             Third Round Draw

April 19-21                      Third Round (17 Division I teams enter)

April 22                           Round of 32 Draw

May 10-11                       Round of 32 (remaining 8 Division I teams enter)

May 12                            Round of 16/Quarterfinal Draw

May 24-25                       Round of 16

June 21-22                       Quarterfinals

June 23                            Semifinal/Final Hosting Draw

July 26-27                        Semifinals

Sept. 6-7 or 13-14            Final

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